Parkman is located in the Fuller Park community area. Fuller Park ranks the highest of any community area in Chicago on a socio-economic hardship index: 55.5% of households are below the poverty line, unemployment is 40%, and per capita income is less than $10,000. (Per capita income in the US as a whole is $48,000.)
“The Fuller Park neighborhood suffers from lack of access to fresh food, high rates of obesity of both young and old, and high levels of air pollution, which results in being consistently rated as a neighborhood carrying one of the highest levels of lead contamination in the city of Chicago,”–Michael Howard, founder, Fuller Park Community Development
Fuller Park lost land and population when the Dan Ryan Expressway was built in the 1950s, and its population has been declining ever since. It has always been a poor area, but, in fact, the population decline was the most rapid during the 1960s when the Union Stockyards lost jobs and eventually closed. The population decline from 2000-2010 was the smallest in decades. The crime rate also tops the list of community areas in Chicago.
Parkman is so much more than a school to its students and to the area that surrounds it in Fuller Park. Parkman has a fully equipped science lab, an athletic program, is newly renovated (new outer doors, refinished wood floors in classrooms, new air conditioning in parts of the building), and has a new playground and heating system.
“From the beginning of my tenure, there were several projects that needed my immediate attention: student discipline, learning environment, and instruction.”
“This school year, we’ve adopted two programs which have drastically decreased our percentage of misconducts that result in suspensions: Champs and Second Step. Because of the implementation of these programs, our suspension rate has decreased by 50%.”
“The learning environment has been completely transformed because of our partnerships with Chicago Cares, Turner Construction Company, and the commitment of our parents, former students, and community members who volunteered on Friday evenings and Saturday mornings to paint classrooms and hallways. We also have an entirely new staff since August 2008.”
“During our last testing session in January of this year, Parkman student’s growth was exceptional. 73% of students met their growth targets in reading and 69% met their targets in math… All of these gains are due to the laser like focus we have placed on data.” —Sonja Lynette James, Parkman Principal, Parkman Hearing, April 19, 2013
The Firman Community Center runs an after school program four days a week. This program helps Parkman students with academics and exposes them to Chicago’s culture. Parkman is also a polling place used by much of the neighborhood.
“A student’s future is more than just test scores. Parents of Parkman students have a strong connection with the faculty and staff because of the excellent education they provide. Closing Parkman would be a huge strain to the community.” – Latonya Jackson, Parkman graduate, 2005
Parkman is a Cluster Site for Early Childhood Special Education. Their program services students that are developmentally delayed and/or cognitively impaired. They are one of two schools in their area with this special early childhood program. One teacher has learned, through her work at Parkman, “the importance of consistency and continuity in the lives of children with special needs.” Many parents would like for their children to remain at Parkman after exiting this Early Childhood Special Education program. Parkman’s Principal has asked to expand this needed program so students could remain in the environment where they are thriving:
“Thanks to Parkman my son can now speak.” –Parkman parent of special needs student
In 2009, the elementary school next door, Princeton, closed. Parkman was a receiving school. Many parents have expressed that they do not want their child to relocate schools again. At Parkman, 23% of the students are homeless, a population that depends particularly on school to provide a stable environment.
In January 2011, the Illinois Eye Institute opened an eye clinic in the Princeton Elementary building. This clinic, which is part of the IL College of Optometry, offers free eye exams for CPS students. Last school year alone, this clinic conducted 5,000 eye exams. Parkman and the Illinois Eye Institute at Princeton share a boiler. If Parkman closes, this clinic will be a huge loss to the immediate area as well as to many CPS students. According to supporters of Parkman, the clinic has invested money by purchasing “BOB” which allows them to chart all of their records electronically. Because of this investment and the proximity to the IL College of Optometry, the eye clinic wants to remain in the Princeton building. A Parkman staff member explained that it is more than an eye clinic:
“They have a social service environment for the community where they give public aid assistance, medical for the children… So when you leave that community source that’s there, when you shut down Parkman, you’re going to shut down that also.”
As with all of these potential school closures, safety of the students is at the forefront of everyone’s minds. Parkman students will have to travel from the Fuller Park neighborhood to the Englewood neighborhood, crossing West Garfield Boulevard (55th Street), a known gang line that divides the Mickey Cobras and Gangster Disciples.
“The most troubling story I’ve heard from children about Parkman’s potential closing is the fear of crossing Garfield Park (55th Street). Some of the boys have explained to me that they have crossed 55th Street… Their fear is not based in legend but grounded in their own experiences.” —Sonja Lynette James, Parkman Principal, Parkman Hearing, April 19, 2013
Parkman is a school that has served many generations within families. Many parents bring their kids to Parkman because they went there and want the same for their children. Many students come back to give back and to share what they have gained with the current student, impacting the future.
“I have been raised by the village that is Parkman School and I can honestly say that I was in the best of care. Because of the love, hard work and passion from my elementary school experience, I am able to mentor other students and feed them the knowledge I’ve obtained.” –Latonya Jackson,
Post author: Jennie Biggs with Cassie Creswell